Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Movie Write-Up (Sort Of): Christian Mingle

I watched some faith-affirming movies last week.  Today, I will comment on the first one that I watched: the 2014 romantic comedy Christian Mingle.  Christian Mingle is a Christian dating site.

Gwyneth Hayden is disappointed with the dating scene and is looking for a relationship that has substance.  Although she is not a Christian, she goes onto the dating web site, Christian Mingle, and pretends to be one.  She meets Paul, a goofy, likable guy.  She tries to imitate the evangelical lingo, and that can get pretty unconvincing and awkward.  Paul’s mother Lacie, played by Morgan Fairchild, suspects that something is wrong.

Gwyneth joins Paul’s family in Mexico on a mission trip.  They are installing a church bell after disaster had struck the Mexican community.  At a Bible study with the Mexican children, a Mexican child asks why God allowed that destruction to hit her community.  Lacie, knowing by this point that Gwyneth is only pretending to be a Christian, volunteers Gwyneth to answer that question.  Gwyneth says that is a good question, and that there must be some answer to it somewhere in that beautiful book, the Bible.  Lacie responds, “How about James 1:2-4?”  We learn later in the movie that the Mexican little girl was actually satisfied with the answer that people experience trials to become stronger.

Paul later confronts Gwyneth and asks her if she is a believer.  She is curious about what exactly that means.  After all, she says, she has been baptized, and she believes in God.  Paul attempts to define where she is spiritually—-to paint her a picture, and to see if that resonates with her.  He proposes that she realizes that there is something bigger, and she gives it the name “God” to conceptualize it.  But she has heard negative things about religion and has seen and experienced bad things in life, and then she doubts God.  She vacillates between belief and non-belief.

Gwyneth tries to be religious after her break-up with Paul: she starts attending an enthusiastic church and serves in the soup kitchen.  She begins a dialogue with God.  She has been working for an advertising agency that tries to make things look good (by the way, Peterman from Seinfeld is on this movie, playing a Peterman-like character!), and, in the midst of that, she develops a genuine desire for truth.  Notwithstanding all of that, her Christian co-worker tells her that she still has a long way to go.  What more does she need to do?  It seems that she needs to tell Jesus that she wants him in her life.  But didn’t she already indicate that, by going to church, talking to God, serving in the soup kitchen, etc.?  She still needed to make that formal commitment.  She needed to want Jesus in her life.

On that scene about the Bible study in Mexico, I am not sure how I would have responded had someone asked me about the problem of evil.  Most likely, I would have replied that it is a mystery.  Because I did not care for the Morgan Fairchild character’s smug attitude in that scene, I would have probably even gotten belligerent: “Unlike some people here, I am not going to parrot some evangelical pat-answer to one of life’s biggest mysteries, from a hilltop of white privilege.”

At the same time, the scene did sensitize me to something that I knew, and yet it was not in the forefront of my mind as I was watching the scene: the Bible does have things to say about why people experience trials.  It is not as if the Bible leaves it a total mystery.  Granted, no answer is a one-size-fits-all, but it does provide something to think about, to grasp onto.

On Paul’s speech to Gwyneth, I can somewhat identify with where Paul suggested that Gwyneth was spiritually: vacillating between belief and non-belief.  I do not think that is entirely bad, per se, since we’re all human.  No one believes perfectly.  My hope is that God loves us, even when we waver.  At the same time, there should be room for commitment, for having a mission in life as opposed to sitting on the fence, for actually doing something with that sense of the transcendent and numinous, beyond just being inspired temporarily.  That is the only way to take it seriously, and for it to shape a person.

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